These cleaning tips will save your favorite pans, skillets, and cookie trays.
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Whether you've recently burned food while cooking or your cherished pots and pans are simply beginning to show their age, knowing how to clean a burnt pan can salvage some of your favorite cookware. If the regular powerhouse combination of hot water and dish soap isn't removing stains, you may need something stronger. There are a few tried-and-true methods and products to remedy the situation, and we're breaking down exactly how to get your prized pans looking as good as new.

Pots and pans hanging on a kitchen wall
Credit: Carlina Teteris / Getty Images

Baking Soda

One of the easiest techniques for cleaning a burnt pan requires two basic items you can find in your kitchen: water and baking soda. Start by creating a thick paste using three parts of baking soda and one part water. Spread the paste evenly over the burnt area, then scrub aggressively for a few minutes until the burnt area starts to diminish. The acidity of baking soda (it has a pH level of approximately eight) will help to dissolve the stain and break down any stuck-on food.

Bar Keeper's Friend

The name should be a telltale sign that this product is beloved by home cooks and yes, bartenders, for its ability to clean the toughest of stains. Bar Keeper's Friend ($4.95, williams-sonoma.com) is made from a combination of oxalic acid and a fine abrasive, which breaks down grease, grime, burn marks, and other stains. The cleanser is still made with the same formula that was created in 1882, which is further proof that this powdered formula is pure magic. To clean a burnt pan with Bar Keeper's Friend, dampen the pan with water, sprinkle on some of the powder to cover the stain, rub gently with a sponge or wet cloth, and rinse thoroughly. The stain should start to lift, though a truly troublesome area may need to be cleaned like this multiple times, according to the brand.

Bleach

This is one of the harshest and strongest chemicals to use, and it is only suitable for use on certain materials. "Kitchenware made of hard, nonporous surfaces like ceramic, glass, and stainless steel can be safely treated with a sanitizing liquid bleach solution to remove stains," says Mary Gagliardi, also known as "Dr. Laundry," Clorox's in-house scientist and cleaning expert. A liquid bleach solution should not be used on raw cast iron or aluminum cookware and should always be thoroughly cleaned before using in the kitchen.

When cleaning cookware with bleach, start by using a barely-dampened non-abrasive, bleach-free scouring powder, such as Bar Keeper's Friend Cookware Polish ($3.99, bedbathandbeyond.com) or Bon Ami Cleaning Powder ($1.99, bedbathandbeyond.com) on a light-duty scrubbing sponge to remove as much of the burn marks as possible. "After washing and rinsing the cookware, prepare a sanitizing solution of two teaspoons Clorox Disinfecting Bleach ($7.59, target.com) in a gallon of water. Fill a pot or your sink (with a stopper) with the bleach solution and allow the items to soak for two minutes before letting the items drip or air-dry. No rinsing required!" says Gagliardi.

Comments (3)

Martha Stewart Member
June 22, 2021
You might want to change the phrase "The acidity of baking soda" to "The alkalinity of baking soda."
Martha Stewart Member
June 22, 2021
I have a Martha Stewart dutch oven and even though nothing has been badly burned in it, there was some sticking at one point, and I have never been able to get it cleaned. At first I thought it was just discolored, but it no longer feels smooth, so there has to be something burned on. Now when I use it, everything sticks. I've tried the baking soda method, but not Bar Keepers or Clorox. Is there special advice for enameled cast iron?
Martha Stewart Member
June 22, 2021
I burned my copper bottom saucepan steaming broccoli last night., yup, I let the water boil away, so this is kinda funny that this particular article arrived in my inbox this morning. I hope these tips will help me save my pan. Thanks, MS.